Q&A: Educational Officer Nicole Payne shares her story
Nicole visits schools and community groups to teach kids about what they can do to protect our precious planet – and she loves her job. We caught up with her to talk passion, hope and the small habits that make a big impact.
What is it that you love most about your job?
There are so many things to love! I feel so lucky to have a role where I get to meet people from all walks of life and talk about an issue I feel so strongly about – protecting the environment.
I always come away from work knowing I’ve made a difference. Whether I’m talking with a small group of school children, or at an event with thousands of people, if just one of them has learned something new, even that’s enough to make an impact.
You’re obviously very passionate about protecting our environment. Where did that passion come from?
I’ve always loved nature and natural habitats. I’ve pretty much been an environmental advocate for as long as I can remember. The passion’s just always been there!
Do you find children receptive and understanding of the need to protect the environment?
100%. Children are always curious and excited when I attend their schools. I use interactive games and information which the kids love, and it’s such a delight to see them become so engaged with what they can do to make a positive change.
It’s great when they’re on their break time and they seek me out to ask me questions and talk about their ideas about how to save the planet. That’s when I know I’ve really got them thinking. It gives me faith that the environment will be in good hands in the future.
Give us your top 5 small habits that make a big impact on the environment
•Throwing something into the red bin? Take a moment to think: can it be recycled, reused, composted?
•Keep gloves in the car and when you go the park or beach pick up 5 pieces of litter.
•Keep the recycling bin for recycling only – no plastic bags. If you pack your recyclables in plastic bags the whole lot will end up in landfill regardless of which bin you use so don’t wreck your efforts.
•If you don’t collect plastic bottles for the container scheme, pop them in a box out the front of your home a few days before bin day with a sign ‘FREE FOR THE CONTAINER SCHEME’. If no one takes them, you can always put them in the recycling bin on collection day.
•Parents – save the environment for the next generation by getting them involved. Show kids how to sort rubbish and make it one of their allowance activities - just don’t call it a chore!
Nicole teaching kids everyday activities to protect the environment
I hope that with all the information and education around environmental protection they’re exposed to, that they’ll make better decisions moving forward than their previous generations have. We’ve become a disposable society. Technology looks to change astronomically in the next decade within resource recovery. I like to think that one day looking after the environment will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, just like any other everyday thought and habit.
What advice would you give to children who’d like to make a career out of looking after the planet?
Oh wow, do it! The rewards on a professional and personal level are amazing. Feeling proud of what you’ve achieved every day and knowing what positive impacts you’ve made for the environment, it’s simply priceless.